Monday, November 21, 2016

Our house sitting blog has moved!

Looking for our house sitting posts? Well Jeff and Charli have moved them to a brand new blog called The Tails of Jeff and Charli. I know, pretty stinkin' cute eh?

So click the link or the picture and come on over and join us in our adventures on the road... cause boy, have we got tails to tell!

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Friday, March 30, 2012

"Well, I have an ingrown nail and terrible gas right now, but otherwise not too bad."

Is it just me, or have we gotten ourselves into a greeting rut as a society?

Take this exchange for example. How many times have you been in this conversation?

You: "Hey Ted, how ya doing?"
Ted: "Good, how are you?"
You: "Great, thanks!"
You: "So, what have you been up to?"
Ted: "Not much, how 'bout you?"
You: "Oh - not too much."
You and Ted: (acknowledging nod)

Brilliant, ain't it?
Now, just for fun, try to get through your day tomorrow and NOT have this conversation with someone. I promise you, it's not as easy as it sounds.

Seriously... does anyone say anything other than some version of "hi, how are you?" or "hey, how's it going?" when we encounter someone anymore? I mean when did a rhetorical question become the only option for saying hello to someone?

I personally try to avoid the ridiculous exchange and usually say something like, "Hi, nice to see you again," or "Hello, you're looking well" - which of course assumes that either are true. Otherwise a simple "Hi" or "Good morning" with a smile works just fine.

My main problem with the over abused "how are you?" greeting is that most people don't really care, or even want to know how the other person actually is. Imagine how uncomfortable it would be if the exchangee decided to reply honestly with a "Oh, not so well. Right now I'm suffering from diarrhea and could very well crap my pants right here."

Ya, exactly.

And think about how much time is wasted on these words that don't actually mean anything. I bet if you added up all the seconds you have spent trading them over a lifetime you would end up with DAYS of wasted time. No... wasted OPPORTUNITY! What if, instead of the empty "How'r you doing?" greeting, people used that time to briefly educate each other with USEFUL information.

"Hi Maria, did you know there's a two-for-one sale on plants at the greenhouse this weekend?"
"No, I didn't! And did you know that eating just 4 sticks of celery a day can help lower your blood pressure?
"No, I hadn't heard that!"
"Yes, it's true. Have a nice day!"
"You too!"

See? Doesn't that make a lot more sense?

Look, asking someone how they are isn't necessarily a bad thing, but does it have to be the ONLY thing? I think not. We're more creative than that. Oh, and for those of you who really DO want to know? I'm doing great... thanks for asking.

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Vidalia News

Oakland Charter School Replaces Curriculum with Angry Birds
NOVEMBER 6, 2011 | ISSUE 1

An Oakland, CA charter school has taken the unorthodox approach of replacing an entire curriculum with a single five-hour class that allows students to work their way through the popular video game Angry Birds.

Principal MaryAnne Bray, of the Oakland Academy of Arts and Sciences, explained Tuesday that, “Angry Birds encompasses so many teachable properties that we believe students will come away from this program with an enriched understanding of several fields of study.” Bray said that Angry Birds allows students to apply the principles of geometry, physics, engineering, logistics and architecture in a practical and hands on manner. “In fact,” claims Bray, “we have never seen students so willing to engage in class.”

Critics of the school’s new endeavor suggest that allowing your child to play a video game all day in lieu of actual coursework is a gamble. Oakland PS29 assistant Principal Peter Hendrickson questions the practice. “Proof that playing Angry Birds for 5 hours a day will be developmentally beneficial could take years to determine, and that’s just not practical.”

Paul Herning, however, from the Acclaim Child Development Center sees it differently. “I think this is the most innovative and creative teaching mechanism I’ve seen in years. Hats off to OAAS for thinking outside the box!”

Bray agrees there is some risk involved in exchanging 5 standard subjects for a single Angry Birds class, but she is also taking caution not to move ahead too quickly. “We won’t automatically renew the program without testing our students first to see how well they’ve learned from this experiment, or how quickly they can execute their way through the package. If my students can’t successfully demonstrate the physics of flinging birds from a slingshot at the end of the semester then obviously this program isn’t working. But I have faith in my kids that they will be successful in this class. Very successful.”

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rogue Antivirus: The most common computer virus and what to do about it

Many of the people who come to me for virus cleanup make the same comment: “I have no idea how this happened!”

To the untrained professional this might sound like these people are covering up for the fact that they are embarrassed about having a virus, as if the only way they could have contracted one was by visiting questionable web sites.

But I happen to know better.

There are MANY innocent ways to pick up a computer bug and what I’m going to write about here is currently one of the most common… Rogue Antivirus.

How did THAT get on there?

Think about pop-up ads. We see them all the time on the internet and think nothing of them. Whether it’s our local newspaper web site, favorite music download spot or major retail store - we simply close them and move on.

This is the exact same method that the evil virus people use. The only difference is, their pop-up window isn’t an ad. Instead, it’s an ominous warning that looks exactly like a legitimate virus software product telling you that your computer has been infected.

Here’s one example:

Now, here’s where the problem begins. If you were to simply do nothing and close your browser screen you would most likely be fine and virus-free. But since this kind of warning looks so legitimate, many people choose to click either the “Remove All Spyware” or the “Ignore” button, which then triggers the actual virus to download and execute its installation onto your computer. By the way, it doesn’t matter which button you choose, the “Ignore” button will install the virus as well.

At this point you may even be reminded by Windows that you’re about to install an executable program that could contain a virus, but since we’re so programmed to click “Ok” every time we install something in the first place, we choose to ignore this warning and continue. “Besides,” you’re thinking, “ how else am I supposed to get this virus removal program updated so it can clean off the virus it says I have?”

Of course once you execute the fake virus removal program it’s too late. Your computer is infected for real.

Why didn’t my virus protection catch it?

Because, the first it time was presented (as the fake virus protection screen) it was just a harmless “pop up” and not an actual virus. It didn’t become a virus until you clicked on one of the buttons and authorized it to download the virus onto your computer. THAT’S why this one is so tricky!

So how do I know I just ran a fake virus program if it looks real?

The first way you know is because your gut will tell you that something went wrong. We don’t normally get presented with a warning that we have a virus so our first instinct is to follow the directions we’ve so conveniently been presented to remove it. And that’s how the virus people are hoping we will react. If we slow down and check some things out before we click the “Remove all spyware” button like the one on the example above, we will discover that the program we are looking at is not actually the same program we are using for our virus protection (i.e. Mcafee or Norton). So far, no fake virus program I’ve seen has been good enough to mimic the actual screens of the product you have installed.

The next way you’ll know you’ve run a fake virus program is because your computer will start acting up… usually within a few hours to a couple of days. After that you won’t even be able to use your computer because the only thing you’ll be presented with are more fake screens. And left untreated, your computer will no longer even boot up and may eventually get to the point where the only cure is a full blown reinstall of the operating system. Yuk.

What do I do now?

If you encounter some version of the fake antivirus program I’ve describe above you should follow these steps immediately:

1. The FIRST thing you should do is close your internet browser. Then open up your “real” virus protection software and check to make sure it is up to date. If not, run the updater (if you can) to get its current definitions. This, of course, is assuming you actually have something like McAfee, Norton, Microsoft Security Essentials or AVG installed and running on your system.

2. Next, unplug your Ethernet cable and disable your wireless connection. You need to do this because the longer you are connected to the internet, the more damage the virus can do. The initial install of the virus has most likely opened up a direct port to a malicious server that will continue to download nasty things onto your computer. If you disconnect the internet you can minimize that possibility.

3. Run your actual virus protection software. If you haven’t waited too long and you have decent software, it should catch the bug and zap it.

4. If your software isn’t fixing it, or worse yet won’t even run, then the virus has probably dug itself in too deep and you’ll need to take more extreme measures to remove it. Some people have luck finding their own solution on the internet and other people choose to have it fixed professionally. The level of success you’ll have is directly related to the length of time you’ve let the virus run rampant. By far the easiest computers I’ve cleaned are the ones where the customers have simply hit the power button and turned off their computer the first time they suspected the infection. In other cases where they’ve waited too long, I’ve had to deliver the bad news that their only option is a total reformat. Again, yuk.

So hopefully this article will help prevent at least one person from getting this nasty virus in the future. However if it does manage to happen - by all means don't be embarrassed. These people have spent years figuring out the best way to trick us... and millions of people fall for it every day.

Happy, safe computing!

for more tips on keeping your computer safe check out the Virus Stompers safety survey here

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 reasons I don't blog as much as I used to

Oh I know, I hear the talk behind my back...
"he used to blog so much more"
"he used to be so funny"
"it's just so sad"

Please don't judge... I have reasons... exculpations... I HAVE SEMI-PLAUSABLE EXCUSES!

For example:

1. I use one of these netbook computers during my commute and the miniature keyboard makes my hands cramp up.

2. The only free time I have to blog is on the train, and I'm pretty sure the tracks for the line I ride were laid in the late 1800s. Therefore, the bouncing, bumping and swaying I have to endure makes me trainsick.

3. Old football injury to my 5th phalange

4. Way too many shiny objects around me

5. The last time I was abducted by aliens the brain scan damaged my right cerebral cortex

6. I've decided to go "old school" instead. If you like, I can write out additional copies and mail them to you.
(please allow 4-6 months for delivery)

7. I heard that blogging is only for narcissistic, ego-centric, writer wannabees and didn't want to be associated with people like that.

8. I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD.

9. I decided to finally check out some other bogs, and quite frankly I don't see the appeal.

10. I was becoming too famous and it was ruining my quality of life.


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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Train Lady

Then there's the woman who sat down directly across from me on the train this morning, even though there were 3 other empty sets of seats immediately around us. And when I say "directly" across from me?... I don't mean in the seat kitty-corner across, I mean the seat directly across from me. You know, knees-to-knees.

"Good morning!" she beamed. And then things just got weird from that point on.

Ok, weird-er.

For the next 3 minutes this overly comfortable train lady proceeded to unpack several items from her purse, naming them as she went: "pills... chapstick... cellphone... iPod..." in some kind of bizarre pre-flight preparation of her daily ride-tual.

And then suddenly, as if suffering from a surprise leg cramp, she whipped off her left shoe and thrust her foot up onto the baseboard heater between my right leg and the wall - literally wedging it between them. Instinctively I curled my legs back under my seat so she wasn't touching me.

"Ahh, I like to put my foot on the heater. I have to take these pills. So many pills. I should check my battery. Yep my phone needs to be charged. These ones are for an infection that doesn't seem to want to heal. Boy it's cold outside. I like to sleep on the train. The government wants me to be fresh for my job. I hope I'm not disturbing you."

And so there I sat with this stupid half-grin on my face pretending to be working on my laptop, careful to not say a word in fear that she would REALLY start blathering on. This went on for another 2 or 3 minutes until as if on cue, she put on her Cybill Shepherd sunglasses, leaned back against the headrest and went to sleep, which of course only made it look like she was staring at me for the next 45 minutes.

I don't know why she chose to sit across from me. Maybe I looked friendly. Or maybe she realized the train would be full by the time we got to Fridley and she thought it would be better to sit with somebody she approved of right away rather than take her chances with someone else later. You know, someone who might possibly judge her or make fun of her. Or blog about her.


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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Magic


That's how I remember Christmas when I was a little boy. Every season filled with a warm, familiar routine that felt comfortable... exciting... magical. Maybe it was the promise of presents or maybe it was the music and decorations, but whatever it was, it left these memories with me for eternity.


Glass choir angels floating on cotton ball clouds on the TV console. Packages sprinkled with pine needles under the tree. Blurry bulbs glowing through frosted windows from the eves outside.


Hardly able to wait until Rudolph and Charlie Brown aired for their one and only showing of the year.


Installing huge cardboard K-D-A-L letters in the front window in hopes that we would win the radio station's prize that year.


Bing, Dean and Nat insisting we have a merry little Christmas from crackly records on a HiFi stereo.


Watching the news on Christmas eve as the anchorman interrupts the broadcast to inform us that the airport has detected an unidentified flying object on radar.


Strategically placing a giant stocking on the couch before heading into the bedroom for an impossible attempt at sleep.


Cousins bursting through the door for their annual visit that included hiding behind forbidden garment bags, ghost story sleepovers in the basement and eating all but the butterscotch-flavored rolls from their requisite books of Lifesavers.


Personal loaves of Grandma's brown bread, toasted slices smothered in butter, filling the house with intoxicating desire.


Being 5, 6, maybe even 7 years old and secretly believing I was right about Santa Claus and everyone else just didn't know any better.


What was magic about Christmas for you as a child?

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The MF'ing Blog Tour - Final Participant

Once upon a time I was a famous blogger.

Well, at least in my mind.

And at that time I belonged to a very special community of bloggers of all varieties. There were humor bloggers, daddy bloggers, photography bloggers, mommy bloggers, cat bloggers, bra bloggers (no really), and even cartoon bloggers. And, as every one of you who blogs or has blogged knows, the greatest thing about blogging is the friendships you build.

While I was experiencing my 4 years of fame, I “met” a quirky guy from Ripon, CA who had a blog called “Mattress Police.” Rob Kroese is his name and writing is his game.

Rob, aka “Diesel” to his readers, is my favorite kind of blogger… funny. Diesel has a “unique” perspective on life as well as a talent for expressing it. Everyday observations to you and me become colorfully twisted possibilities to him. You have an unidentified switch on your dashboard? Diesel has a complete analysis about his. You hire someone to do a little landscaping? Diesel hires the neighbor kid and writes controversial hilarity. That’s just how things work with him.

Diesel’s "Onion-esque" blog was a favorite stopping place for me to get my chuckle on, and I never missed a post. But then last year he did something epic and took his talent to the next level by writing AND self-publishing his very own novel, Mercury Falls.

*THEY* said he couldn’t do it. *THEY* said he would be wasting his time - and yet *THEY* were wrong. Not only did Rob (I have to change his name back to “Rob” now because from this point forward he is a published author) write a hysterical novel about an angel named Mercury who has been put in charge of the Apocalypse, but he also defied all odds when Amazon republished his novel under their own AmazonEncore label this fall. Since then, Mercury Falls has spent several days in the number one spot in Amazon’s science fiction category. That’s pretty fricken cool.

So check it out Rob’s new book here: In fact, check out ALL his books there. He’s written like twenty of them. Ok, only three… but three really funny ones. So that’s like 20 bad ones. No, that didn’t come out right. I meant it’s like taking all the funny out of 20 books and cramming it into three of his books. Whatever… just check it out!

Ed: I have in no way been forced to or bribed into writing this review. I just really like Rob’s work and think the 4 of you should check it out as well.

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Mr. Know-It-All

Holy canolli… it’s been a long time!

But the last time we did this you all left a ton of excellent questions so I have a ton of excellent answers! Let’s get right to it, shall we?

I’ll start first with this one left by my dad Bill on Facebook, after wondering why it has taken me so long to write a blog post.

* * * * *

Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
Five weeks (to win a game of) solitaire. How many weeks to write a new blog?

- Bill

Dear Bill,
Believe it or not, every post published here on View From The Cloud is a thoroughly vetted work of legitimate journalism. However, some stories take longer than others to produce based on the subject matter. For example this one took five weeks like you mentioned because I was doing scientific research on how brain exercise via game stimulation increases your cognitive ability to ignore blogging.

And so it varies. But in general, here’s how long it takes me to write posts in these various categories:
  • Poop – Immediately… they just seem to plop right out.
  • Billisms – I’m STILL accumulating material... so about 84 years.
  • Dear Diary – Way too long. Every time I start to read my old diary I have flashbacks that take several hours to snap out of.
  • The St. Cloud Skate Plaza – 4 years!

* * * * *

 Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
1. Is it a bad sign when your neck starts cracking every time you tilt it to one side?
2. Is it a bad sign when my keyboard no longer has the letters embossed on the keys (e, a, s, d, v, n, m, o in particular)?

- Michelle

Dear Michelle,
1. No, but if Pez candy starts shooting out of your mouth you may want to get that checked.
2. I don’t know if it’s bad, but apparently the only things you ever seem to write about are:mad ovens, damn mavens, sad venom, man doves, van domes and nads demos.

* * * * *

Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
1. Why do you wear spats and no shoes?
2. Is there REALLY a Frostbite Falls, Minnesota? If so, do you have a good mall?

- Maureen

Dear Maureen,
1. Shouldn't you be more concerned that I'm wearing spats and no pants?
2. What are you saying, I made up my birthplace? What… you want to see proof of my birth certificate? I suppose next you’re going to start calling me a moose-lum terrorist.

* * * * *

Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
1. Why does my cat's breath smell so rank but then her fur (which she washes with her rank-breathed mouth) always smells so nice?
2. Is it true that food eaten between the hours of midnight and 3 AM have no calories? (please please please)

- JD

Dear JD,
1. Easy. Her flypaper-like tongue is collecting the stink particles off her butt fur and storing them in her mouth. Now, go get those kitty kisses!
2. Well, that depends. If you’re eating rice cakes and diet Coke then yes, very few calories. But if you’re like everyone else who has had too much to drink at that time of the morning and you’re eating an entire pizza, several microwave burritos, and 16 hard shells from Taco Bell then maybe. I’ll need to do a little field research on that and get back to you.

* * * * *

Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
1. What is the title of the tune from "Kill Bill Vol One" that Darryl Hannah is whistling?
2. Which candy bar is the absolute best, in your opinion?
3. Can you tell the difference between 200 and 400 thread count sheets?
- Roger

Dear Roger,
1. The nerve of you to ask! That haunting tune, written by Benard Hermann, is called Twisted Nerve.
2. No contest… Metho Cups. They’re positively addicting!
3. Yes, it’s about $19.

* * * * *

Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
You seem to have a penchant for weird and/or gross food. What exactly is in a fruitcake?
- Mom Thumb

Dear Mom Thumb,
I’ll answer that when you tell me what a penchant is. Is that like a bunch of people yelling “BIC! BIC! BIC! BIC!”??? Anyway, fruitcakes contain all the little spare things that end up in the bottom of your pencil drawer - like erasers, ear plugs and rubber stamps.

* * * * *

Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
1. My neighbor has to mow his lawn twice weekly in the summer. He fertilizes his lawn. How can I make him understand that when you fertilize, you make it grow more, hence mowing more, hence disturbing all his neighbors more?
2. What happened to Paris Hilton? You never heard anything about her anymore. Who do I thank for that?
- Kathy

Dear Kathy,
1. The real issue here is that he’s too damn noisy and he doesn’t realize it. So… the next time he mows his lawn, you and your husband should go outside wearing those big headphone things like airport maintenance people use, and then start waving ship signal flags at each other to communicate. If he doesn’t notice that, get two electric megaphones like swat teams use and start having a conversation about what’s for dinner. If THAT doesn’t work walk over and shoot his lawnmower with a shotgun. Of course try to save that as a last resort.
2. Sorry, but your Paris-free days are nearly over. Last I heard she was negotiating a new reality TV show called Prison Ain’t No Hilton. In fact, I understand she is planning to commit a new felony every season.

* * * * *

Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
1. What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
2. When I make my aluminum foil helmet so the government can't read my thoughts, which side should be facing my head: the shiny side or the non-shiny side?
- Janna

Dear Janna,
1. What do you mean… African or European? Actually, you'll find a complete answer here.
2. Always keep the shiny side out. Especially when you can't take the "voices" anymore and finally decide to put your head in the oven.

* * * * *

So that's it for now folks. Stay tuned for more!

Related Reads: click here to see all the Mr. Know It All columns!

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

I'm trying. Really I am.

But I had no idea my job was going to be so hard. IBM actually expects you to work. Like all day and stuff! Can you imagine? And by the time I get on the train to come home, the only thing my brain wants to do is play solitaire (btw, have any of you ever won the 4-suit level of Spider Solitaire? Is it even possible?)

Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure I'll get back to writing again soon. It's just going to take a little more time to get into a routine. That, and a solitaire win.

In the meantime, I found this ad for the iPhone 4 kind of interesting, because there's actually something wrong with it. Can you spot the error? (you may need to enlarge it to see it)

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coming up...

Ok, I thought I was going to be able to write every other day like I used to in my glory days of blogging, but alas... life continues to get in the way.

For one thing, I was supposed to have all this time on the train FIVE days a week to do whatever I wanted... you know - read, rite (no, not rithmetic) or just listen to music. But fortunately I am already working from home 2 days/wk which means I've now lost 2/5 of my reserved blog time. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I'd much rather be working from home than commuting and blogging. Well, actually I'd rather be just blogging... but that's not an option.

Still, I do have a short-list of things I plan to write about, and I thought I'd preview it for you now. Really cool things. For example:

- The progress of the skate plaza. Go here if you want to read the back stories and go here if you want to see the current story.

- The continuation of my "On The Road" series including membership banter from this FB group: I Played in a Gabe Garland  Band.

- Our shrinking nest and how we went from having 4 children in the house to only one, literally overnight. Also, how we now plan to live in a van down by the river instead of our mega-sized house.

- The stress associated with working in a HUGE skyscraper with THOUSANDS of people and never being able to find a secluded bathroom stall to do my business in. If you know me, you know this is an issue.

-And finally, more fun from Mr. Know It All. Remember him? He's the guy who will answer all of your inane questions with even more inane answers. And thanks to you, he has tons of bizarre inquires to address from his last post.

So thank you everyone for hanging in there and not deleting me from your feed readers. It was really sweet to come back online to all of your friendly faces. You guys are, and always have been, THE BEST!


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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

10 fun ways to utilize my hour commute on the train

1. Quilting

2. Drawing caricatures (with disproportionately large heads) of other passengers and taping them on the wall

Delicious fermented cabbage
3. Watching epic films on my iPod Mini

4. Making it my mission to use the toilets on all 9 cars

5. Learning to play the accordion

6. Reading the entire series of "... for Dummies" books

7. Pretending to have loud arguments on my cell phone with my wife

8. Eating egg salad sandwiches and hot steaming bowls of kimchi

9. Unnecessarily sitting next to someone even though there are plenty of empty seats, and coughing uncontrollably for the entire hour

10. Nearly dying in my sleep 197 times due to sleep apnea, only to wake up each time with a loud disturbing "SNNNOOORRRKKK!" sound

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Monday, September 20, 2010


It's 6:10 a.m. and I'm sitting in my bus seat on the first leg of a two-stage trip to Minneapolis which includes 30 minutes on the Northstar Link (bus) followed by an hour on the Northstar Line (train).

What the.... an hour and a half to and from work each day you say?!

I know, it sounds ridiculous that a person would subject himself to this kind of commute, but when you consider the alternative of not having a job? Well, ya... it's not too bad of a deal. That's what 9+ months of unemployment will do to you.

It's funny how losing your job plays out. At first you're all, "Ooh... I've got stellar skillz and I'm gonna get my ass hired in a week or two, no problem!" And so you dress up your resume, submit it to a bunch of job search engines and start applying for everything in your neighborhood that seems like something you would enjoy doing.

Then... a few months go by and you start to realize that maybe you should expand your search to jobs more than 5 minutes from your house. Oh well, a 30 minute drive isn't that bad.

And THEN after 6 months, you get smacked in the face with a big ol' serving of humble pie and concede to the fact that you need to consider every job opportunity within 100 miles. Hmm, a project manager contract job for a global organization in Minneapolis? I'll take it!!!

Fortunately, this opportunity is turning out to be somewhat of a dream job. Good pay, great people and an awesome training program. Plus, after a few months I'll be able to work from home at least two days a week. Possibly even more once I can be productive without assistance.

So here it is... my first post in over 9 months. Not exactly a knee-slapper but I wanted to get some of this serious stuff out of the way and give an update on one of the bigger changes in my life, and the main one that has inspired me to crack this thing open and start writing again. In fact, I have a bunch of other news to share as well, so stay tuned.

And who knows... now that I've found a job, I may even find my funny bone again.

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Monday, March 01, 2010



... I find a job

... I finish my certification

... Something extraordinary happens around here

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

What a parent will do for a child

This was me this afternoon.

Well, not exactly "me" per se because I was taking the picture, but this is where I was sitting when I chaperoned Rosie's drum line rehearsal today.

Being a chaperon involves the highly-skilled task of sitting in an empty junior high school hallway for 2 hours while the drum line practices in the adjoining gymnasium. My role then, was to be the security force that prevents ne'er-do-wells from infiltrating the... uh, the... er, well the 100 feet of hallway behind me.

So... while I was sitting there, this is what I was hearing:

a-tink! a-tink! a-tink! a-tink!
a-tink! a-tink! a-tink! a-tink!
a-tink! a-tink! a-tink! a-tink!
a-tink! a-tink! a-tink! a-tink! etc... ad infitatum
(sound of excruciatingly loud metallic metronome)

bump-bump-bump-bump BUMP-a-ba-bump-bump
bump-bump-bump-bump BUMP-a-ba-bump-bump
bump-bump-bump-bump BUMP-a-ba-bump-bump
bump-bump-bump-bump BUMP-a-ba-bump-bump... repeat 4000 times
(sound of snare drums ON TOP of excruciatingly loud metallic metronome)

Rosie on the far right

After only 45 minutes, I realize that this inhumane abuse must be added to the congressional list of currently debated torture, right along with waterboarding and electrocution.

Forget about what you've seen in the movies. Remember that scene in Marathon Man where Laurence Olivier took a dentist drill to Dustin Hoffman's teeth to get him to spill it? Ya... this is worse.

Or how about when Daniel Craig was tied to that chair in Casino Royal and that guy whipped him in his naughty bits with that huge knotted rope?


Or what about when they put those creatures in Chekov's ear in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?!

Still worse!

So what I'm saying is - loud metallic metronomes are painful. They're loud and they're loud and they never stop. NEVER! For 2 hours!

Still... I survived. And my daughter is doing something she loves. And I love her, so that's why I was there.

And now I know just how much I love her.

It's a lot.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

10 Differences Between Being 25 and 45

I am currently on a mission to backup every post I've ever written to CD so when my PC crashes (again) or when Google decides to suddenly make us start paying for Blogger and holds our old posts hostage, I won't lose all my archives.

One of the benefits of doing this is that I get to take a peek at things I wrote 3+ years ago... things I had completely forgotten I had written. Here's one of them that gave me a chuckle. Perhaps you can identify with some of these yourselves.

10 Differences Between Being 25 and 45

25: Routinely went to bed at 3:00 a.m.
Routinely wake up at 3:00 a.m. to go to the bathroom.

Screamed at my buddies to "crank up the music - I love this song!"
Scream at my kids to "turn down the damn music!"

Spent hours on the beach trying to get a tan.
45: Spend hours on the beach trying to take a nap.

Was happy with the bass response from my car stereo when I listened to head-banging rock.
Am happy because my car stereo can pick up MPR anywhere in the state.

Thought loud, screaming, misbehaved kids were annoying.
Think parents of loud, screaming, misbehaved kids are annoying.

Enjoyed how sexy the college girls dressed.
Worry that my daughter will someday want to dress like those sleazy college girls.

Could easily drink a 6-pack of beer and then be ready to party.
Can easily drink 2 martinis and then be ready for bed.

Ate greasy foods on a regular basis.
Eat TUMS on a regular basis.

Thought my car was "the shit."
45: Think my car is shit.

Had thick long hair down past my shoulders when I was on the road in a band.
Am in a band called The Receders.

Now, you'll have to excuse me. My wife is getting ready to take me out for a martini.

I'll need something to help me sleep you know - 3:00 a.m. comes early!

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"...a day they thought would never arrive"

In case you haven't been keeping track, this is the 16th story I've written about our skate plaza project over the last 3 1/2 years (you can read them all here).

Austin at his first meeting with our Mayor in 2006, and last night

To say this skate plaza has been controversial would be the understatement of the millennium. In the last 3 months alone this issue has been debated through dozens of letters to the editor, 4 public hearings and several more board meetings.

But finally, finally, FINALLY - after 3 1/2 years of considering at least 8 different park locations within the city, the decision came down to a single vote last night by our City Council on whether or not the plaza should be built at Heritage Park.

Not, however, before we enjoyed one more hour and a half of public debate. And even though we had to endure several long-winded complaints by opponents of the project, we were also treated to eloquent testimonies by courageous teenagers who stepped up to the microphone to plead their cases as well.

One young man even presented this oustanding original poem:
Man Made Criminals - By Eric Pederson
I’m a criminal because man has made me into a criminal.

Ordinance 384 – Skateboarding prohibited. Two words written on a piece of paper.

Two words of incantation that when written in proper places can transform placid participants into what I am today… a criminal.

An apathetic punk. Let loose with no regard for boundaries, no regard for the well being of personal properties. I’m no better than a grifter.

There has to be consequences for men like me. Men who go to school five days a week, who work part time jobs to pay for their rent and groceries. Men who at the end of a long week, feel they deserve some time off. Some time to go outside and participate in a sport.

So convict me. Confine me to a fenced off square of asphalt. Tell me to behave “or else,” and I will comply.

Why shouldn’t I? This is exactly what I’ve asked for. A confined piece of America where I can be free. Where I can live and learn for free. Free from worry. Free from prosecution. Free to enjoy my hobby, my sport, my passion.

Skateboarding… free from any legal repercussion.
Eventually, it was time to vote on the decision. And then, as if time had suddenly transcended itself forward from years of relentless work to a single, magical moment in time - the president of the City Council asked for the vote.

And as you can see here by this standing ovation... THE SKATE PLAZA WAS APPROVED!!!

Photo courtesy of Kimm Anderson - St. Cloud Times

People cheered, hugged and cried as advocates from as far back as 1996 were there to celebrate a day they thought would never arrive. Now, these same people will be skating on their hard-earned plaza this summer.

We still have a lot of work to do of course, but the hardest part is over. When the media reported in 2006 that "If all goes as planned, Austin could see his dream come true by the time he graduates in 2010," we all laughed, because we never imagined it could possibly take that long.

Well guess what, it did take that long. And guess what else... I think the media has seen the political process in action before.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
St. Cloud Times - Skate plaza push passes council, 5-2 (video clip included) 

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Monday, February 08, 2010

I interviewed JD so you don't have to!

In what is sure to go down in history as the slowest blog post of all time, JD and I have FINALLY completed a 3-month project to conduct a simple 5 question interview. The funny thing is, it was supposed to be a 10 question interview, but after only trading 5 questions and answers after such a long time, we both agreed to put it out of its misery and "run with it," as they say in the publishing biz.

I guess that's what happens when you ask 2 bloggers with ADD to accomplish a task together. All I can say is, it's a good thing we're not in charge of anything important!

Anyway, here is my interview with one of my all-time favorite bloggers and bestest friends on the whole internet - JD from I Do Things So You Don't Have To. Enjoy.

1. Name one thing you set out to "do" so we didn't have to, and once you got started said, "Are you insane?... I'm not going to do this!"

Well, there was the infamous head cheese incident. A while back, I foolishly solicited requests from readers, some of which were rather . . . inappropriate. But there were several requests that seemed doable and even entertaining; in particular, one from a certain Minnesotan musician. He requested that I eat head cheese (so he wouldn’t have to), and THIS was one of the things I actually agreed to do. Foolish JD. I got as far as the grocery store display of packaged head cheese. I looked. I thought. I puked inwardly. Then I left. I may be a coward, but I’m not insane.

2. Oh well, fortunately Karl was insane enough to cover that one for me. Speaking of being a coward... what's your beef with raisins. Is it because they look like decapitated fly torsos? What did raisins ever do to you?

I’ll tell you what raisins did – and continue to do – to me. They’re sneaky evil sneaks that masquerade as chocolate chips and ruin otherwise delicious baked goods. Can anyone adequately describe the horror of chomping into what they THINK is a chocolate chip cookie and finding in their mouths instead the squirmy, awful, chewy, horrible . . . THING that is a raisin??? NO! Raisins are Mother Nature’s cruelest trick. She killed the innocent grape and yet allowed it to live. As a raisin.

3. I see. So you're saying raisins are really undead zombie grapes? Well, when you put it that way it sounds all negative and stuff.

In August of '08 we missed meeting each other at Niagra Falls by only a few hours. Then I vandalized the place with like a thousand little View From The Cloud stickers so you could find them in a treasure hunt - and you didn't find one. I even put one on the forehead of the woman selling tickets to the tour behind the falls. Seriously. Did you even try?

ED NOTE... It was at this time I waited over 2 weeks for a response. Our email exchange went like this:
Me: Tap tap tap...
Me: Sorry, I was out of line. Is it ok if I put a 2011 deadline on it?
JD (a few days later): HA! You thought I wouldn't get this in until 2011, didn't you? Well, I'm a WHOLE YEAR earlier than you figured.
And now, back to JD's answer:

Did I even try? Did I . . . (splutters furiously then regains composure).
OK, dude. You have noooo idea how hard I looked for those stupid stickers. It's a good thing I've been to Niagara Falls several times already, because Maid of the Mist? Horseshoe Falls? Natural beauty? People watching? I missed it all in favor of keeping my eyeballs constantly peeled to any possible surface where a sticker might've been placed. I think your term "vandalized" is appropriate, because the Niagara Falls cleaning force must've been following right on your heels, removing every sticker seconds after you stuck it. Because there was nothing. NOTHING. If there had been a sticker, I would've found it. And really, I'm beginning to wonder if you even put up any stickers at all. Because it's JUST like you to mess with my head like that. I even asked the lady selling tickets to the tour behind the falls. She remembered you, all right. But she said nothing about no stinkin' stickers.

4. Hmm, maybe someday you should tell me how you really feel about those stickers. Anyway, moving on...

You are quite revealing in your openness to write about the nude beaches and nudist camps you and your husband like to visit. For the rest of us who are not so liberal... please expose what it is you like so much about public nudity. Give us the naked truth. What are we missing?

First, nice wordplay, using "revealing" as your choice of verb. I like it. What I don't like is the assumption that I am a nudist. Allow me to clarify:

This whole nude thing was Dave's idea. And it's not like he wanders around the house nude; I've seen more of his nude self on our exactly 10 nude excursions than during the total of our almost 20-year marriage. And you might think he loves naked-lady-watching, but that's only part of it. In truth, at the places we've been to, the naked ladies are really not all that much to look at. Mainly, the man just loves being nude in public.

Me? Not so much. Part of my public nudity is based on indulging Dave's favorite hobby, but there is an aspect to public nudity that I love, too.

I LOVE to swim in the nude! And I don't mind lounging on beaches or by pools in just my awesome tan, either. You see, I never realized it, but I hate tan lines. I feel very comfortable shedding my clothes if there's water around. But invite me to a nude bowling tournament or a nude barbecue, and I'll have to politely decline.

Dave, however, will be there.

5. I see. I noticed you didn't mention the whole nude waist-high salad bar incident. I, um... think I'll just leave that one alone for now thank you.

And now, after 3 suspenseful months... THE FINAL QUESTION!

You've written some classic bloggage over the last several years, but for some reason I seem to enjoy your posts about pain and suffering the most. That's because you do such a great job of turning a horrible situation into a hysterical read. There are dozens I can reference, but these 2 in particular stick out as vintage JD.

The question? Oh yeah, I almost forgot. What is YOUR favorite post about the worst thing that has happened to you?

I don't think you're the only one who enjoys those types of posts. I think they're fun to read because everyone has gone through something, be it injury, illness, or surgery. I find a LOT of humor in these types of situations, and I think other people do, too. My favorite? It's gotta be this one:

It's a little long, but I think it's pretty funny from start to finish. It also contains the word "underpants," which is one of my favorite funny words. I like the insistence on referring to it as a "procedure" instead of "surgery," and any post that features my mom is gonna be a winner.

Oh, wait. I see you didn't ask WHY this post is my favorite. Oh, well. Consider that a bonus.

* * * * * * * * * * * 

And there you have it. Thank you JD for allowing me to interview you. It was a lot of fun! And speaking of fun... I must say I'm rather enjoying having my blog be "private" so I can write about things like nude bloggers and national park vandalism without having to worry about my potential employers seeing it.

Heh... and won't this be a fun little surprise once I get a job and open it back up for them to find.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Laid Off - How it all went down

I must have played out "that meeting" a thousand times in my head over the last year.

How will they tell me? What will it feel like? How will I respond?

I knew it was coming, it was only a matter of time. When you're a project manager for a team of software developers and your company's software products are in demand, your job is extremely valuable. This is because software development is a messy business and there needs to be one captain of the ship to interface with the customers, manage the development team, track the projects and make sure the products are being delivered on spec, bug-free, on time and on budget.

However, when no one is ordering up new software and your software team members are sitting on their hands... well, a project manager isn't as necessary. And this is where we were for nearly a year. So I didn't think it would come as a huge surprise when I was finally handed my pink slip.

Still... I was surprised.

In late December I was invited to a meeting with my boss for January 4th. This didn't seem unusual at all since we had meetings every quarter to discuss the previous quarter and what we would do to improve things for the next one. And it also wasn't unusual for him to ask me to bring my laptop since we always worked on spreadsheets and exchanged employee review documents during these meetings as well. However, one thing I had started doing prior to the last several meetings was backing up the contents of my laptop to a personal external hard drive JUST IN CASE I was asked to... you know, give it back.

So there I was on January 4th, walking into my boss's office with my laptop in hand, ready to discuss my ideas for how I would keep the ship afloat for another quarter. And there he was, sitting across the table with... well, other plans. Thankfully, the process went very quickly. After a few minutes of small talk, I unzipped my laptop bag and placed it on the table. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hey, where should I plug this in?

Boss: Yeah... Jeff. Uh, that won't actually be necessary. There's not going to be a planning meeting this morning.

Me: *silence*

Boss: I'm really sorry man. I wish I could make this work, but there's just nothing more I can do here. I feel really bad about this.

Me: I see.

And that was it. I pretty much just sat there in silence for about a minute while I tried to register what had just happened as a million unfamiliar emotions ran through my head.
Is this for real?
Did I really just get let go?
What is that feeling in my stomach?
What will I do now?
Am I going to cry?
Why do I feel relieved?

Twenty minutes later, after turning over my laptop and signing some paperwork, I was walking out the door for the last time, getting in my car and driving home to an empty house where I would spend the next hour or so just staring out the window watching the squirrels run up and down the trees, not really thinking about anything.

Blank. Stunned. Confused. Tired.


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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Apartment 54

Smell like I sound I'm lost in a crowd. And I'm hungry like the wolf.

I'm here at the grand opening of Apt 54, the hottest new party spot in the blogsphere - and anybody who is anybody is partying with us tonight!

It's not a big place, just a studio apartment, but with being out of a job and all it's the only thing I could afford right now. Still this place is packed and everyone is having a blast!

Look! There's Kathy with a bacon martini. And there's VE surrounded by his entourage of gnomes. Celebrities... I tell ya.

Don't turn around, uh-oh. Der Kommissar's in town, uh-oh.

I don't see Diesel here. He was invited but I hear he came down with a nasty virus. Bummer for him.

Holy crap! Hang on a second...  JD! PUT YOUR CLOTHES BACK ON!!!

Dave2 is here and the girls are swooning over him. Wait... they're not swooning over him, they're all ga-ga over his cute little pet monkey. Smooth. Hey, use it if you got it, that's what I always say. What's that?... Sure Dave, I'll tell the DJ to play some Pet Shop Boys.

Call the police, there's a madman around. Running down underground to a dive bar. In a West End town.

Yes, this place is rockin' and people from all over the world are here. There's Dan over there from England, Maureen from Canada, Jaffer from, uh... whereever it is he comes from - and Elizabeth from Alaska. I know, she's still in the United States, but she can see Russia from her front porch so it's just like being from another country.

She's a super freak, super freak, she's super freakeeeeey - yow!

Well then, that's all I have time for right now. I need to restock the champagne and tell Adam to quit exposing himself on the dance floor. My parents are here for pete's sake! Oh well, you can dress him up...

Anyway, so glad all my best friends could join me here tonight. This is a TOTAL blast! Let's plan on doing this again soon.

Oh, and make sure you sign the guest list before you leave!

The days are dull, the nights are long. Guess it's better to say... Goodbye to you!

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